Laurence is the editor of the Society for Computers and the Law, and this blog posting, spurred by two recent encounters with CCTV and surveillance, looks at the real reasons behind concerns over privacy and surveillance – are we genuinely concerned about our right to privacy (whatever that may be), or are is it really the right to do something wrong without anyone knowing about it? If so, when is that acceptable and when does it stop being so? For example, would surveillance of motorists’ speeds on all motorways be deemed more intrusive and less acceptable than blanket CCTV coverage of town centres, on the basis that speeding on motorways (whilst a criminal offence) is considered by many as socially acceptable, whereas anti-social behaviour in town centres is not? If so, who decides where that boundary lies?
My view is that there is a balance to be struck, and the question is whether or not the surveillance is a necessary and proportionate way to achieve its aim. The concern must be, however, the temptation to use existing surveillance for other purposes “just because it is there”. Who monitors that?
It’s interesting (non-legal) food for thought.
On August 7, 2009